There's a reason that the painted bears at the Bear Pit B-B-Q are prancing all over the walls. They've eaten the garlic toast at this down-home family barbecue restaurant. At first, you might think it's the Missouri-style 'cue, all wood-smoked in a brick oven (that's the pit). And judging from the lines of customers waiting to be seated for succulent hot links, spare ribs, steaks, baby backs, burgers and chicken, and turkey, beef, pork, ham and lamb sandwiches dripping with house-made sauce, you'd be half-right. But it's the orange-y crusty garlic toast — made with a secret cheese mixture and garlic juice — paired with absolutely anything or eaten alone, that can make a Kansas City native cry. It all started about 62 years ago, when Missourian Ben Baier opened a shack in Newhall to share his barbecue skills with the few residents that populated the Valley. The place became so successful that he went downright upscale in 1954, when he built (yes, built) the cozy, ranch-style dining room that still stands to this day. Baier's no longer with us, but present owner Andrew Schatz made sure to keep the original bears — painted by Disney artists — as a testament to the first owner. The Bear Pit B-B-Q, 10825 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills. (818) 365-2509, —Heidi Dvorak

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.

LA Weekly